Artist Olafur Eliasson Brings London Tons of Glacial Ice to Inspire Climate Change Action

  • LONDON, United Kingdom
  • /
  • December 07, 2018

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Harvesting ice at Nuuk Port and Harbour, Greenland Photo: Kuupik V. Kleist/KVK Consult © 2018 Olafur Eliasson

Installation brings the reality of climate change to a global public by placing melting blocks of glacial ice in the centre of London

Internationally acclaimed artist Olafur Eliasson, working in collaboration with leading geologist Minik Rosing, will display blocks of melting ice across two public sites in the centre of London to create a major artwork, Ice Watch. Supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ice Watch will serve as a visceral reminder of the impact of climate change.

Launching on Tuesday, 11 December 2018, to coincide with the meeting of world leaders at the COP24 climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, Ice Watch aims to inspire public action against climate change at this critical time. This installation follows a landmark report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on 8 October 2018, which warned that we have only 12 years to limit the worst effects of climate change.

Harvesting ice floating in Nuup Kangerlua, Greenland, for Ice Watch in Paris, 2015 Photo: Jørgen Chemnitz © 2015 Olafur Eliasson

The blocks of ice were taken out of the waters of the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland, where they were melting into the ocean after having been lost from the ice sheet. In London, 24 blocks will be arranged in a circular grove on Bankside outside Tate Modern, where a major exhibition of Eliasson’s work will open in July 2019, and six additional blocks will be on display in the heart
of the City of London outside Bloomberg’s European Headquarters. As the ice gradually thaws, members of the public will have an opportunity to encounter the tangible effects of climate change by seeing and feeling the ice melt away.

‘It is clear that we have only a short period of time to limit the extreme effects of climate change,’ said Olafur Eliasson. ‘By enabling people to experience and actually touch the blocks of ice in this project, I hope we will connect people to their surroundings in a deeper way and inspire radical change. We must recognise that together we have the power to take individual actions and to push for systemic change. Let’s transform climate knowledge into climate action.’

Loading ice at Nuuk Port and Harbour, Greenland, for Ice Watch in Copenhagen, 2014 Photo: Group Greenland © 2014 Olafur Eliasson

‘Ice Watch vividly captures the urgency of tackling climate change,’ said Michael R. Bloomberg, UN Special Envoy for Climate Action and founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies. ‘We hope Olafur Eliasson’s work of art will inspire bolder and more ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by governments, businesses, and communities.’

Said Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries: ‘London has always been unafraid to blaze a trail and the Mayor has set us the ambitious target of becoming a
zero-carbon city. This sculpture will capture the imagination and help Londoners of all ages to understand first-hand the environmental challenges we all face.’

‘Since 2015, the melting of ice in Greenland has raised global sea level by 2.5 mm. Since the discovery of the greenhouse effect in 1896, global temperatures have increased more than one degree Celsius. Earth is changing at an ever-increasing speed,’ said Minik Rosing. ‘The foundation of human civilisation withers away while Greenland melts. Everyone can observe it, most
can understand it, and nobody can avoid it. Science and technology have made it possible for us to destabilise Earth’s climate, but now that we understand the mechanisms behind these changes, we have the power to prevent them from growing.’

Ice Watch London is the third iteration of the Ice Watch artwork, with each instalment timed to coincide with a global climate change event. The first instalment opened in 2014 outside Copenhagen’s City Hall to mark the publication of the UN Fifth Assessment Report on Climate Change by the IPCC. In 2015, Ice Watch Paris at the Place du Panthéon accompanied the 2015 COP 21 talks that led to the Paris Agreement.

Ice Watch London will be Eliasson’s first temporary sculpture for the capital and builds on his history of promoting climate change awareness and sustainable energy. His Little Sun project provides portable, solar-powered lamps to families, refugees, and local entrepreneurs in off-grid communities. The lamps are especially useful in households where electricity is scarce or unavailable, and priced affordably for families currently using costly and toxic kerosene for their lighting. Other critically acclaimed works include Eliasson’s 2003 Tate Modern installation The weather project, seen by more than two million people.

Depending on weather conditions, Ice Watch is expected to be on view in London until Friday, 21 December 2018. Any remaining ice will then be taken to local community and cultural institutions as part of an extended educational programme.

Studio Olafur Eliasson is partnering with Julie’s Bicycle to understand and minimise the environmental impacts produced by Ice Watch. A full carbon footprint will be produced on completion of the project.
For more information and images, visit and follow
#IceWatchLondon on social media. 

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